Services of General Economic Interest : Commission Adopts Light' De Minimis Regulation

Article excerpt

The last piece of the puzzle is finally in place. The European Commission completed the Almunia package on state aid for services of general economic interest (SGEI) with its adoption, on 25 April, of the final element, a new de minimis regulation. This text exempts from prior notification or authorisation "small" public services that do not affect competition, when compensation is less than 500,000.

"This new exemption will facilitate the provision of many small, local public services," commented Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia.

Published on 20 December 2011, the system for the revision of rules on state aid for SGEI aims to clarify concepts and introduce a more proportionate approach by easing constraints for more sectors. It amends the 2005 Altmark (or Monti-Kroes) package, which spelled out conditions for the compatibility of compensation granted to a company that provides a public service. It includes four elements with separate legal force: a decision on exemption from notification; a revised framework for compensation for SGEIs that are more commercial in nature and a very general communication that clarifies the concepts of rules on SGEI compensation. These texts entered into force on 31 January. The fourth element of the package, the de minimis regulation was one of the main stumbling blocks in the debate and was temporarily separated from the package to allow for further consultation of the parties. …